New Immigrant Literatures in the United States: A Sourcebook to Our Multicultural Literary Heritage

By Alpana Sharma Knippling | Go to book overview

6
Iranian-American Literature Nasrin Rahimieh

INTRODUCTION

If the history of modern Persian literature has been dominated by Western influence, Iranian immigrant writing in the United States has found itself in a paradoxical proximity with some of the very literary and cultural sources that initiated the modern phase of literary development in Iran. While the earlier stages of transformation in modern Persian literature, further elaborated later, took the form of importations from foreign sources into the native literary scene, the literature of immigration is confronted with what would at first seem to be a reversal of this movement: the "other," regarded as a model for a new Iranian national literary institution, is now deeply implicated in a "self," one, at best, divided. The homogeneous and tangible identity, whose construction in the early modern period depended on maintaining a clear demarcation between native and other, is destabilized in the process of immigration and exile. The position of immigrant writers on the borders of two languages, cultures, and nationalities has led to attempts at critical reexamination of the notion of a unitary identity. This has enabled some Iranian immigrant writers to challenge the Iranian nationalist erasure of minority languages and discourses. By and large, however, Iranian-American writers retain a sense of nostalgia and a fear of being irrevocably cut off from life in Iran. At its most extreme, this anxiety of loss finds expression in re-creations of pre-revolutionary Iranian social setting or of events immediately preceding the revolution of 1979. As Bahman Sholevar indicates, transplanted Iranians have brought to America what they were ( Dead Reckoning 22). The return to the historical moment that severed their ties with their home

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